Skip to main content

Christmas Eve - A Writer's Almanac

Winter, Thirty Below with Sundogs

The sun came up chased by dogs
Across a field of snow.
As they passed the pile of broken logs
Frost fluttered in the air
Between the birch trees
Standing in that spot exactly
Where the ridge becomes a hill.
In another thousand years
Sky and woods and land
Will have come to be there, still.
And still pursued all day, a winter fox
Too smart for dogs,
The sun goes in animal delight
Over the farthest edge of earth
Not far ahead of night
And jumps into the dark pool
With a last great splash of light.
"Winter, Thirty Below with Sundogs" by Tom Hennen, from Darkness Sticks to Everything. © Copper Canyon Press, 2013. Reprinted with permission. 
Today is Christmas Eve. 
(Happy Birthday to Ryan Seacrest, 40-years old, today)
It was on this day 100 hundred years ago that the last known "Christmas Truce"  occurred along the Western Front during World War I. In the week leading up to Christmas, soldiers all over the battlefields had been decorating their trenches with candles and makeshift trimmings when groups of German and British soldiers began shouting seasonal greetings and singing songs to each other. On occasion, a soldier or two would even cross the battlefield to take gifts to the enemy. Then, on Christmas Eve, the men of the Western Front put the war on hold and many soldiers from both sides left their trenches to meet in No Man’s Land, where they mingled and exchanged tobacco, chocolate, and sometimes even the buttons from their own uniforms as souvenirs. They played games of football, sang carols, and buried fallen comrades together as the unofficial truce lasted through the night.
It was on this day in 1871 that Giuseppe Verdi’s opera "Aida" had its debut at the Khedivial Opera House in Cairo. The opera was commissioned by Ismail Pasha, the khedive of Egypt. Pasha had been educated in Paris, and he dreamed that with the construction of the Suez Canal, Cairo would be the new Paris. Pasha planned elaborate festivities to celebrate the canal’s opening, and he wrote to ask Verdi if the great composer would write a piece of music to celebrate. Verdi answered: “I regret that I must decline this honor [...] it is not my custom to compose occasional pieces.” Pasha accepted that, but he did not give up on Verdi. The Egyptian leader built a beautiful and luxurious opera house, which opened with the Suez Canal in November of 1869; its first opera was Verdi’s Rigoletto. The next spring, Pasha offered Verdi 150,000 francs, a huge sum of money, to write an Egyptian-themed opera.
A French Egyptologist, Auguste Mariette, wrote the story: an Ethiopian princess, Aida, is enslaved in Egypt. She loves Radames, a commander of the Pharaoh’s army, who loves her back. Aida is torn between her love of Radames and loyalty to her father, King of Ethiopia and the Pharaoh’s enemy. Verdi was impressed by the story. He wrote in a letter: “It offers a splendid mise-en-scène, and there are two or three situations which, if not very new, are certainly very beautiful.” The librettist was Antonio Ghislanzoni, and Verdi composed the opera quickly as he received pieces of the libretto. In September of 1871, the director of the Cairo Opera House met Verdi to receive a handwritten copy of the opera. Verdi refused to attend the opening because he got seasick easily and hated traveling by ship.
The opera was quite a spectacle, with dramatic sets, costumes, choruses, and dances. The Pyramids of Giza and the Temple of Karnak were prominently featured. The first, sold-out performance was a huge success. Ismail Pasha was overjoyed, and after the curtain went down the performers were given round after round of applause, as was Pasha. The opera played 12 times that season in Egypt, and opened in Italy a few months later — this time Verdi was in the audience. The performers received 32 curtain calls.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.

Host: Garrison Keillor
Technical Director: Thomas Scheuzger
Engineer: Noah Smith
Producer: Joy Biles
Permissions: Kathy Roach
Web Producer: Ben Miller

Popular posts from this blog

Taking Tips From a Younger Generation

Phyllis Korkki, an assignment editor at The New York Times, visited the garment district in Manhattan to interview designers as part of a story for the newspaper’s Snapchat account. Credit George Etheredge/The New York Times
What Could I Possibly Learn From A Mentor Half My Age? Plenty.

How on earth did I become an “older worker?”

It was only a few years ago, it seems, that I set out to climb the ladder in my chosen field. That field happens to be journalism, but it shares many attributes with countless other workplaces. For instance, back when I was one of the youngest people in the room, I was helped by experienced elders who taught me the ropes.

Now, shockingly, I’m one of the elders. And I’ve watched my industry undergo significant change. That’s why I recently went searching for a young mentor — yes, a younger colleague to mentor me.

Discounts, Discovery & Delight: 3Ds for Retail Success

In fashion and retail, Dopamine is the drug of choice. Technically, Dopamine is the neurotransmitter of “desire.” Dopamine leaps across synapses in our brain to control our reward and pleasure centers. It enables craving. It induces repeat behaviors. It makes us want more. Therefore, it is in our best interest to create products and experiences which induce the release of dopamine in our consumers. We could use some dopamine for ourselves, too. In our fashion and retail world, there are three primary stimuli, "3Ds," we can control to deliver hits of dopamine: Discounts, Discovery and Delight.

Beware of Wombats & Other Vampires

You are surrounded by dangerous WOMBATS. They’re everywhere. Sometimes they hide in plain sight, easy to spot. Other times they are well camouflaged, requiring heightened awareness to identify them. You need to stay alert, it’s important to avoid them. WOMBATs resemble ordinary, productive tasks. However, they are vampires for time and resources, weapons of mass distraction.WOMBATs are seductive. Working on a WOMBAT feels productive.WOMBATs are bad for your career.WOMBATs are bad for your business.WOMBATs infiltrate your work day (and your personal time). Strike them down.WOMBATs may be be ingrained in your company culture: “We’ve always done it that way…” WOMBAT Metamorphosis Alert: A task or project that wasproductive in the pastcanevolve into a WOMBAT in today's environment.Your comfort zone is populated with WOMBATs.More on comfort zones, here.Some people are WOMBATs in disguise. Stay away from them, they are vampire WOMBATs.If you don’t control your WOMBATs, your WOMBATs will…